Lesson 4: Nonverbal Communication

Teen with a questioning facial expression

Lesson 4: Nonverbal Communication

Name(s) of student(s):

Age and grade level:

Goal from IEP connected to lesson:

Objective from IEP connected to lesson:

Purpose of lesson: To demonstrate the ability to communicate nonverbally to a speaker.

Materials needed: Access to a restaurant


“We have been learning conversational skills. Let’s say you had a romantic interest in a person you were conversing with. You let her know you were interested in what she had to say by giving her verbal feedback, however, you appeared to be looking elsewhere, or your body was turned away from hers. Even though your verbal communication would be engaging, she likely would assume you were bored or otherwise preoccupied. You’d be sending an entirely inaccurate message! Today I will brief you on communicating that you are listening and interested in what someone is saying through your body language.”

Discussion: Head-to-Toe Listening

“You will want your nonverbal messages to compliment your verbal messages. If you say, “you’re interesting!” you can validate that statement by demonstrating interest in other, nonverbal ways. This nonverbal connecting ensures you look like your body is listening, from your head down to your toes.”

  • Head: Your head, while upright, should be directed toward the speaker and can occasionally nod in agreement.
  • Eyes: Eye contact is made or appears to be made. To avoid looking too intense, you can look away occasionally.
  • Mouth: If the conversation is positive, light-hearted, or friendly, don’t forget to smile! A genuine smile is warm and inviting. It sure does help to brush and floss after a meal and/or ask a good friend if there is any food in your teeth first!
  • Shoulders: Shoulders are held upright, exuding confidence and alertness.
  • Arms: To emphasize a comfortable and confident self, arms should be by your side instead of crossed over the abdomen.
  • Hands: People generally use their hands while they speak. The goal is an emphasis on important words without distracting from verbal communication. Repetitive hand movements are generally distracting.
  • Legs: Stand at least one arms-length distance from the speaker with a comfortable, shoulder-width stance. Two people in conversation rarely stand directly in front of one another but usually angled toward one another.
  • Feet: Feet pointed toward a speaker at a 45-degree angle can be interpreted as interest. Feet pointed away from a speaker will likely be interpreted as a desire to walk away.

Exercise: Restaurant

Have the student practice nonverbal communication elements in small segments of time. A good beginning opportunity may be ordering at a familiar fast-food restaurant. After the student has ordered, responded to questions, and paid for the food, discuss the interaction over lunch.

  • Where was your head directed, and what message did its position speak to the cashier?
  • What facial expressions did you give?
  • Describe the cashier’s tone of voice and head direction. What message did you receive from her nonverbal and verbal communication?
  • What parts of the experience were uncomfortable for you? Which were comfortable?
  • What techniques can you practice?

Exercise: First Impressions

In a group setting, invite one student to act as if she is a new student who is bored and disinterested. Her body language and tone of voice should reflect her lack of enthusiasm. Describe her body language to the class. She can introduce herself to the class, sharing a bit about herself and from where she moved.

Ask the group the following questions.

  • How did her words and attitude make you feel?
  • How enthusiastic would you be to befriend the girl?
  • If you were an employer looking to hire a new sales associate, why would you not hire her?

“Perhaps this new girl is quite nice and would make a wonderful friend and employee, but today was a bad day, or she was feeling particularly overwhelmed. Regardless of her actual attitude, her language (nonverbal and verbal) gave you all an impression that shaped your first impression of her. I want you to understand the positive and negative impact your words, tone of voice, posture, gestures, stance, and eye contact make on others.”


“Today, we talked about listening and engaging with your body in addition to your words. You learned and reviewed head-to-toe listening and the messages you send with your nonverbal and verbal communication.”

Progress notes, data collection, comments, and modifications: